According to Jeffrey Johnson, founder of Visiting Angels: If these facts don’t shake you up, nothing will. “The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) shows about 30 percent of persons aged 45-64 and 2 percent ages 65 and above exercise regularly. On the other hand, the NCHS approximates that 70 percent of males and females aged 50-74 are overweight with 30 percent of that number being clinically obese.”
Exercising for the masses, although a relatively recent phenomenon seems not to have taken hold, at least based on the above statistics... and that is a shame. To remain as healthy as possible is clearly as important for our elderly as it is for our young. Yet, we seem to have this concept backwards, as evidenced by the ever increasing injuries for our youth who are more and more manipulated into the world of sports (as a form of exercise) before their bodies are ready for such activity. And to the counter point, although we see many elders walking our beaches and parks, the above facts do indicate that the trend for elder exercise is truly not taking hold as it should in order to promote good health well into old age.
The elderly, admittedly, have some concerns with initiating a healthy exercise program. For example, as we age, our bodies do change, e.g., heart and lung capacities reduce, flexibility may shrink, muscle mass reduces as does strength, and stability is reduced increasing the risk of falling. An exercise program for the elder in your life should incorporate muscle strengthening exercises to improve joint flexibility, cardio exercises, balance development, and a healthy diet. These exercises can be broken down into several areas of focus:
* Weight training
* Aquatic exercises
* Floor exercises, e.g., yoga, stretching, etc.
* Aerobic exercises
* Meal planning
As important as selecting the exercises that will improve and maintain health is, it is equally important to incorporate exercises that will reduce the risk of injury. In general, this means stretching properly and warming up before leaping into the exercise program. It can also call for exercises that are low impact such as, swimming, forms of cross-training, yoga, etc. Next week, we will look at many specific exercises that will meet the needs of your elder, while reducing risks of injury. As with any exercise program, always consult the elder’s physician prior to commencing the exercise.
STAY TUNED FOR PART II
Lori Holmgren RN, MSN